Mississippi and Me: Country Music, Inspiration for Past and Present

When I decided to set Thank God for Mississippi in Tennessee, it seemed as natural as breathing to include a passion for the greats of country music in my eponymous character’s repertoire of traits. She loves Dolly Parton and gets affronted when the main male character says something she perceives to be a slight to the Queen of Country Music. She has sung June Carter Cash songs at the annual town fair for years. She has a T-shirt that says: “DOLLY AND LORETTA AND PATSY,” (which is how, the main male character says, he located her at the town fair). You get the picture.

I’ve only just begun to realize the impact country music has had on my life. It’s strange to have grown up in Tennessee, not too far distant from Nashville, and not realize how immersed you are in country music. My childhood home is roughly 65 miles from Nashville, but you could pick up about five of the Nashville country stations and the local ones as well. Dolly Parton, the fairy godmother of Tennessee, is something more than a legend at this point, and we’re basically bottle-fed on her songs. So obviously, there is a natural connection with country music in the area I grew up—and in the area where Thank God for Mississippi is set.

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